The BFG (short for The Big Friendly Giant) is a 1982 children’s book written by British novelist Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is an expansion of a short story from Dahl’s 1975 book Danny, the Champion of the World. The book is dedicated to Dahl’s late daughter, Olivia, who died of measles encephalitis at the age of seven in 1962. As of 2009, the novel has sold 37 million copies in UK editions alone, with more than 1 million copies sold around the world every year.
An animated adaptation was shown on television in 1989 with David Jason providing the voice of the BFG and Amanda Root as the voice of Sophie. It has also been adapted as a theatre performance. A theatrical live-action adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg was released in 2016.
British author Roald Dahl first made his mark as a leading writer of children’s literature in 1961, when he published James and the Giant Peach. His subsequent books include Charlie and theChocolate Factory, Fantastic Fox, Matilda, and his 1982 novel The BFG (Big Friendly Giant), which was illustrated by Quentin Blake and based on a segment of Dahl’s 1975 book Danny, theChampion of the World. His books have sometimes been viewed as darker than traditional children’s tales, particularly with respect to the revenge that is at times wrought on adults by children. In all, Dahl has written nineteen children’s books.
The BFG opens with young Sophie looking out into the street from her bed in the orphanage in which she lives. See sees a huge man walking along. He has with him a suitcase and an object that looks like a trumpet. As he notices Sophie, the girl runs to her bed and attempts to hide. The giant, however, approaches, picks her up, and takes her through the window. He speeds off on foot, carrying her to a cave, and brings her inside. The little girl begs the giant not to eat her. Thismakes him laugh and he tells her that he is not going to eat her, as he is the Big Friendly Giant.
Although he does not plan to eat Sophie, he tells her that she has to now stay with him forever, because no one can ever learn that he exists. He tells her she needs to be cautious because if she leaves his cave the neighbors will catch her and eat her. Next he tells her about the items he was carrying with him. The suitcase contains jars in which he stores dreams that he catches. He then blows them into the windows of children with the trumpet-like device. The good dreams are given to children throughout the world; the bad ones he destroys. The BFG tells Sophie that since he does not eat children, he subsists on snozzcumbers, which are a disgusting variety of vegetable that look like cucumbers and to Sophie taste like frog skins and rotten fish. To the giant their taste is akin to cockroaches and slime wanglers. When another giant, the Bloodbottler, arrives, Sophie hides in a snozzcumber and is almost eaten by the Bloodbottler, who then leaves.
The following morning the giant takes the girl to Dream County in order to capture more dreams.They encounter man-eating giants on the way, including the largest, Fleshlumpeater, who is also their leader. Once in Dream County the BFG shows Sophie how he catches dreams, but while doing so catches a nightmare, which he utilizes to initiate a fight with other giants. Sophie suggests that the BFG ask the Queen of England to help in imprisoning the other giants. She leads him to Buckingham Palace and the BFG gives the Queen a nightmare containing the man-eating giants. Included in the dream is an awareness of Sophie being present in the bedroom of the Queen, which leads the Queen to believe in the information contained in the dream and to speak with the BFG and help him and Sophie vanquish the other giants.
A battalion of helicopters is dispatched to follow the BFG and Sophie to the homeland of the giants, where they get tied up while sleeping. They are not very difficult to capture, with the exception of Fleshlumpeater, who awakens while the British forces are trying to tie him up. Sophie and the BFG dupe Fleshlumpeater into putting his limbs in position to be tied by telling him that a poisonous snake has bitten him. The helicopters transport the giants to London and imprison them in a deep pit. A castle is then built as a home for the BFG, and a cottage for Sophie. They are, for many years, the recipients of gifts from all of the countries around the world that were ever threatened by giants. The novella, it is learned at the end, was written by the BFG as a record of his adventures with Sophie.
This relatively simple tale of good triumphing over evil carries with it a bevy of thematic messages for its audience. The BFG is not, like many people, what he initially appears to be to Sophie. He looks threatening, but his aims are noble. Knowledge is not always what tradition suggests. The BFG for example, cannot read, but has skills and insight that Sophie would not have imagined. Being open-minded about the unfamiliar helps both Sophie and the Queen believe in and assist the BFG. Key to the story of the BFG is the adage that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” which is exemplified in the way theBFG looks at the relationship between giants and men. Even though humans do things that are wrong, like killing each other, to him it does not justify giants doing an additional wrong like eating them.